Pictured: participants in an exercise study participate in a group class. Image credit: Aging, Mobility, and Cognitive Neuroscience Lab.

A study to determine if some types of exercise are better than others at fighting cognitive decline is recruiting participants in Vancouver. The study involves four hour-long group exercise sessions per week for six weeks; these include an aerobic training exercise program, a resistance training exercise program, a combination exercise program of aerobic and resistance training, and a balance and tone exercise program.

“We’re looking for people who have started to notice changes in their memory,” said Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose, Principal Investigator.

Regular exercise directly benefits the brain, maintaining proper blood flow to all areas of the brain and increasing circulating levels of neurotrophic factors.

“Neurotrophic factors are like ‘brain vitamins;’ they promote brain cell growth, differentiation, and survival,” says Dr. Liu-Ambrose. “Using advanced neuroimaging techniques, we have seen that regular exercise can actually increase brain volume over time.”

The study will follow adults aged 65 to 85 years old over a six month period, and eligible participants will receive before-and-after brain scans and cognitive testing (and they’ll get to see their results). Eligible participants will be able to walk three meters with or without an assistive device, and will not have previously been diagnosed with dementia or a neurodegenerative disease, or be taking medications that affect cognitive function.

While recruitment has been ongoing since 2018, the participants have largely skewed female; the team is hoping to increase male involvement in this research.

“We’d like to determine if there are sex differences in how the brain responds to various types of exercise,” explained Dr. Liu-Ambrose. “We’re not excluding women, but we are hoping to increase enrolment among older men who are often underrepresented in this kind of research.”

The study, including the exercise programs will take place at Vancouver General Hospital. For more information, please email cogmob.research@hiphealth.ca or call 604-875-4111 ext. 69223.

Related: Vitality: Can exercise or brain training improve cognitive outcomes after stroke?